TWO VIEWS - Tips on learning how to compromise
Americans are sharply divided as the presidential election nears. While that’s not unusual in an election year, studies have indicated that the nation has never been more polarized, a trend that’s apparent everywhere from social media to the halls of Congress.
As the rift widens around critical issues, from the economy to civil rights, rediscovering the lost art of compromise could go a long way toward the healing that America needs, says author Dr. Jim White.
“What if more Americans were to compromise?” White says. “What would be the downside? Absolutely nothing. At last, we would settle on common ground – love of country – and allow the most important points from each side to win the day.
“This is essential for us to reunify America. But today, people are out way too much to win and win big. Everything must be on their own terms. Compromise is an ability to listen to two sides of a disagreement and arrive at an amicable agreement that achieves a common goal. It means we can work together to find solutions to our differences. All we need is an open heart and an open mind.”
White, who has been through many negotiations in his career while buying, expanding, and selling 23 multinational companies, has these tips for learning how to compromise:
• Never have your mind made up. “If you have an open mind as you practice active listening, you might find that you agree with one or two points made by the other party,” White says. “That is a good thing, providing you with areas you can concede to add balance against the places where you can’t. It takes a big person to see another person’s point of view enough to change their mind on the spot, and that will earn trust and respect.”
• Search for common ground. “This is a useful starting point,” White says. “It demonstrates the parties aren’t so far apart and have the capability of reaching an agreement.”
• Show the respect you expect. White says all input should be taken seriously and everyone’s voice should be heard. “No matter how you feel about someone else’s statement, do not discount or ridicule it,” White says. “It’s virtually impossible to walk a remark back once a person feels insulted.”
• Cut out the blame. The foundational mindset of compromise is that there is no right or wrong point of view. “Instead of focusing on who might be at fault,” White says, “think in terms of shared responsibility. Accusations only serve to make people defensive.”
• Broaden the basis of the negotiation. “A negotiation often flounders because it all hinges on one thing,” White says. “For example, a political disagreement on updating a zoning law may lean entirely on the geographical location of enforcement. But a politician could point out how the new law would benefit small businesses within the territory.”
• Look for opportunities to trade. Identify the issues most important to the other party and see if you can find a way to address them. “Stripping away the smaller issues and boiling them down to one central ‘give’ enables compromise to take place,” White says.
“When it comes to politics,” White says, “we all have a distinct commonality: pride in our country. As long as we do not preach hate or violence, we are all American patriots and we are all part of the same cause.”
Jim White, PhD, is author of Broken America: Ten Guiding Principles To Restore America and founder and president of JL White International. He holds a B.S. in civil engineering, an MBA, and a doctorate in psychology and organizational behavior.